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Worried about flood damage? Keep these recovery tips in mind

Riviera Estates mobile home park in Eagle is flooded.
Riviera Estates mobile home park in Eagle is flooded. nblanchard@idahostatesman.com

For months, emergency managers, homeowners, business owners and Treasure Valley residents have been closely watching as the Boise River flows at its highest level in years. If you haven’t already, now is the time to make a plan in case you encounter flooding.

Even if the river isn’t directly threatening your home right now, any of us could be victim of disaster. Disaster recovery starts with good preparation.

It’s a good idea to keep documentation of possessions. This can be critical in insurance claims. Consider going room by room or grouping items by type. Take multiple photos, retain receipts and keep record of model and serial numbers.

In inventorying your home, keep in mind sensitive documents. Do you have back up of the most critical pieces of paper you have? If your home and all your files are destroyed, how would you recover that information? Consider keeping copies of documents in a safety deposit box. You might consider scanning your documents and storing them on the cloud in a secure location.

If you’ve followed the events this spring, you’ve likely heard by now that flood insurance is separate from most standard homeowner’s insurance policies.

“Homeowners’ insurance policies that cover some flood damage only do so by a specific amendment to the insurance contract, and only for a specific dollar amount,” writes Tricia Carney with the Idaho Department of Insurance. “Other than amended homeowners’ insurance policies, flood insurance is regulated by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).” Keep in mind that purchasing a new flood policy may include a waiting period.

So, what if you experience flood damage and do have insurance? Again, we turn to the experts at the Department of Insurance:

▪  Contact your insurance agent or company and report the loss — have flood insurance policy information ready.

▪  Separate damaged and undamaged property; do all you can to protect undamaged property.

▪  Make a list of damages for the adjuster — if you have prepared a home inventory, this should be easy.

▪  Take photos of all damage, including water lines on walls and cabinetry.

▪  Make a list of any areas of structural damage you want to point out to the adjuster.

▪  Consult with the adjuster before signing any agreements or contracts to clean or restore your property.

▪  Begin to dry out the building and your personal property.

▪  Hire an appliance repair company to provide a repair estimate for flood-damaged appliances — including heating and cooling equipment.

The recovery and repair process is primetime for scammers and unscrupulous businesses to try to take advantage of those needing help. Better Business Bureau warns homeowners to be cautious of the home repair rip-offs that may include overcharging, shoddy work, or skipping town without finishing the job.

Although you may be eager to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be pro-active in selecting a company and not re-active to sales solicitations.

For major repairs, take time to shop around and get three to four estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references and check that the company is properly licensed and insured. For added security, consider working with a BBB Accredited Business.

Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Read and understand the contract in its entirety and request a copy. Never sign a blank contract.

Never pay in full for all repairs in advance. While many companies may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more one-third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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